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Civil Society Organisations: We Shall Not Cooperate with ICC in Ongwen\'s Trial :: Uganda Radionetwork

Civil Society Organisations: We Shall Not Cooperate with ICC in Ongwen\'s Trial

According to Human Rights\' Watch, Ongwen is being held personally accountable for the crimes that were committed in Northern Uganda in 2004.
Brigadier Dominic Ongwen

Audio 5

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The Ugandan government and International Criminal Court are likely to face an uphill task to line up strong witnesses to testify against Brigadier Dominic Ongwen, one of the top commanders of the Lord's Resistance Army rebels. Ongwen surrendered to US troops in the Central African Republic recently and was transferred to the International Criminal Court in Hague, where he is wanted for three counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes.


According to Human Rights\' Watch, Ongwen is being held personally accountable for the crimes that were committed in Northern Uganda in 2004. However, a section of religious leaders, members of the public and cultural institution have disagreed with government and ICC on the trial of Brigadier Dominic Ongwen who was both a perpetrator and victim of LRA abductions.


Some of the civil society organizations supporting LRA victims in Northern Uganda say they will not cooperate with government and ICC to identify new and potential witnesses to pin Ongwen. The organizations argue that, despite the fact that they want justice done to their clients who bore the brunt of LRA atrocities, they will not grant the ICC access to their clients\' database due to differences in their mandates and confidentiality issues with their clients.


The National Memory and Peace Documentation Center, a project of Refugee Law Project of Makerere University\'s Faculty of Law is one such organization. The organization is keeping one of the richest war archives of Uganda obtained through profiling communities and victims in different parts of the country. 

Komakech John Ogwok, the Manager of the National Memory and Peace documentation Center says the center can never cooperate with the government and the ICC on witness identification.

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Komakech says ICC raised lots of public expectations in Northern Uganda by indicting the LRA commanders and has delivered very little. He says only a fair and transparent trial of Dominic Ongwen will help to restore public trust and confidence in the International Criminal Court. 

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This position is also shared by Kitgum concerned Women\'s Association-KICWA. Kitgum concerned Women\'s Association received, hosted and rehabilitated hundreds of former abductees, some of who witnessed Ongwen\'s brutality first hand.


Christopher Arwai, the KICWA Program Director says they will not be party to any ICC trial of indicted LRA commanders. He says government and the ICC will have to brace themselves to identify witnesses to pin down Brigadier Ongwen without its cooperation.

Arwai says his clients prefer the transitional justice approach to the ICC Trial to promote a holistic healing process of the victims and perpetrators alike.

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According to the ICC outreach department, participation in ICC trial can be by way of applications by the Victims to the Pre-trial chamber and the registry. Arwai says if some of returned victims among his clients want to take part in the ICC trial, he won\'t block such a victim from finding justice.

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Henry Kilama Komakech, an ICC trained legal Consultant in Gulu District says he is certain that investigators from the International Criminal Court identified and established a strong bank of witnesses to pin down the indicted LRA commanders.

Komakech says with or without the cooperation of civil Society Organizations; the ICC will draw from its bank of witnesses it assembled in various parts of the country. 

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The International Criminal court trained and hired the services of Counsel Komakech Henry Kilama in sensitizing communities in northern Uganda on activities and operations of the court shortly after unsealing the arrests warrants of five indicted LRA commanders in July 2005.

Some unconfirmed media reports show that ICC has lined up 41 witnesses. The court is yet to call on new witnesses.  Brigadier Ongwen could walk off should the ICC failure to line up a list of credible witnesses.